Though Chinese electric carmaker Nio Inc. is facing challenges as a result of the current crisis, CEO William Li said he is "ever more confident" in the future of electric vehicles post-COVID-19.
Li said Tuesday during a virtual EcoMotion conference that similar to any other auto company, Nio has faced challenges during the pandemic, but in that lies opportunity.
EcoMotion, a nonprofit joint venture within the Israeli smart mobility sector, made its annual technology conference virtual this year amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The deadly outbreak has exacerbated Nio's cash troubles, disrupting production and delivery of vehicles. Nio's cash balance was $151.7 million at of the end of December, which is not adequate to provide the required working capital and liquidity for continuous operation over the next year, the company previously said in a statement.
Nio delivered 2,305 vehicles in January and February, which was lower than its target, Li has said.
In his fireside chat Tuesday, Li said Nio sold 3,000 vehicles in April. The pandemic led to the temporary closure of 100 Nio stores early in the year, and supply chain disruptions made resuming production challenging. Coordinating with suppliers in China, Europe and the U.S. to build up parts inventories was not easy, Li said.
"In terms of supply chain, sales and services, we have secured pretty good results. The impact of the outbreak on Nio is rather short term," Li said in translated remarks. "At the same time, EVs are becoming more and more popular for personal use in China. It is a result of not only the contribution of many Chinese brands, but also new EV products launched in China by car companies like Tesla and Audi."
Li said he sees opportunities and partnerships coming from this. Nio already has a partnership with Mobileye on developing autonomous driving technologies.
"In an era where software, hardware and services are more closely connected based on cloud technology, trust and shared visions are critical," Li said.
Li, who founded the company in 2014, expressed confidence in the future of electric vehicles and startup auto companies post-pandemic.
"I personally think that the outbreak has created more opportunities for innovative companies," Li said. "Unlike larger companies, whose determination to transform might be affected by the outbreak, Nio is a new company. We can fully utilize this advantage to make more determined investment, not only into electrification, but also in smart technologies such as autonomous driving and vehicle connectivity."
"Companies like Nio can speed up the adoption of EVs," he added. "From my point of view, autonomous driving is a very significant technology enabler to promote the adoption of EVs."